I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to raise this matter and I am glad the Minister is present to respond. I refer to the issue of development charges and the impact they could have on restricting economic development. The charges have been with us for a while and they have been a significant revenue source for local authorities. A review of the charge was carried out a few years ago when I was a member of Cork City Council. Our approach was to examine future development and what would be needed. We sought to strike a balance between existing development and proposed developments and contributions were made in an open and transparent manner and there was accountability at the time. However, circumstances have changed and these charges still attach as a condition of planning permission. In some cases, the charge is high and it is a disincentive to development.
Cork City Council still has the same charge while Cork and Limerick County Councils have reduced it in an effort to encourage economic development. I received an e-mail drawing my attention to a planning application granted in Cork earlier this month for a scheme on the docklands. The development comprised 61,000 sq. m of office space and 18,000 sq. m of business and technology space. It is a substantial proposal for which the development charge is €31 million but no financial institution will lend money on that basis. The reason I have raised this issue is to ascertain what plans the Minister and the Department have to ensure excessive development charges are reduced to encourage development. There must be a balance. If these developments go ahead, everybody employed in their construction will spend money and benefit the economy. Local authorities and county and city managers must examine the situation because it is not uniform throughout the country. In many cases there is a disincentive towards development.
I hope the Minister can also clarify something else for me. I understand that development contributions have been waived by local authorities for any loans and developments with which NAMA has been associated. Is that true and who decides who should or should not pay?